Matthew Fort: Something old, something new...

It's not that I hate Christmas. Far from it. I am a hopeless slave to all that God rest ye merry gentlemen, holly and mistletoe, mulled wine and mince pies lark, not to mention the pop of crackers, the pop of corks and the pop of the top button on my trousers. But, honestly, for a food writer, it's a nightmare. It comes around every year, year after year, and you think - I think - "What can I write about this year? What is there new to say?" To be truthful, not much. Last year, I ignored Christmas completely, but this year I've decided to take it if not head on, then at a slight angle. Most people head for the safety zone and opt for tradition, then spend days worrying about it and collapse of nervous prostration (and too much food and drink) at the end of it. But for those of a slightly more questing spirit, here are a few ideas to sink your teeth into and bring a bit of variety to the day of days.

Spiced roast winter squash

A change from roast potatoes. Or as well as, if your family is that wedded to them. Just rather quicker and easier to cook. Colourful, too. And jolly tasty on top of that.

185ml vegetable oil

2kg butternut or other winter squash

30g muscovado (or other brown sugar)

15g ground allspice

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Pour the oil into a roasting pan, and put into the oven to heat up. Meanwhile, cut the squash in half, scoop out all the seeds. Now cut the flesh into chunks as large as you like, but they shouldn't be too large or too small. Transfer the squash to the roasting pan, making sure each bit of squash is coated in the hot fat.

Roast for 20 minutes or so, until the squash is beginning to brown. Take it out of the oven and pour off the fat. Mix the sugar, spice and salt, and sprinkle over the squash. Return to the oven and continue roasting until the squash is a fine, rich, amber colour. Season with pepper and serve.

Mashed Brussels sprouts with parmesan and cream

I'm not quite sure where this recipe came from. I picked up the idea from someone over lunch a while back, and now I can't quite remember the whole story, though I think my informant told me it was from Nigel Slater. In which case, I apologise to that great man - or, indeed, to anyone else who lays claim to it. Whatever its true provenance, it is a grand way to cook sprouts, one of the most frequently traduced vegetables in the garden. It has been known to seduce even the most dyed-in-the-wool sprout-hater.

1.5kg brussels sprouts

284ml double cream

Salt and pepper

150g Parmesan, grated

Preheat the oven to 175C/350F/gas mark 4. Remove all the manky leaves from the outside of the sprouts. Bring a pan of unsalted water to the boil, toss in the sprouts, lid on, turn down the heat and cook until parboiled - four to six minutes, say. Drain, then tip into the food processor, along with the cream, salt and pepper. Whizz for 20 seconds or so - they should be roughly chopped up, not a smooth purée. Stir all the Parmesan into the sprout mash except for enough to sprinkle over the top, then transfer to an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle the reserved Parmesan on top and bake until the top has developed a fine, crunchy crust.

Fresh cranberry and orange sauce

This is a recipe from Phylly, an American friend who serves it at Thanksgiving. It is lighter and fresher than the traditional British variety. The secret is in the orange peel, which brings a wonderful, perfumed depth to the party.

250g fresh cranberries

2 organic oranges

1 small piece fresh ginger (optional)

Sugar, to taste

Put the cranberries into a food processor and blast to a thick gunk. Grate the peel off one of the oranges and add this to the crushed cranberries. Peel the pith off the grated orange and peel and 'de-pith' the other orange. Finely chop the orange flesh and add to the mix, along with any juices that may have escaped while you were chopping. Stir in the peeled and grated ginger, if using, and sugar. Leave to rest for at least four hours before serving.

Christmas pudding souffle

Who really likes Christmas pudding? Really? I know there are those who swear by their granny's version, who promise a revelation on Christmas day, but it always turns out to be a lie. Christmas puddings by definition are over-rich, claggy, stomach-battering creations. If they aren't, they aren't Christmas puddings. I developed this soufflé to harness the pudding's punchy flavour, but lightening it. The clever thing about it, if I may say so, is that it's really very easy to make.

40g butter, melted

500g cooked Christmas pudding

400ml full cream milk

6 large eggs, separated, plus 2 extra egg whites

Salt

Icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Grease two soufflé dishes with melted butter. Put the pudding into a processor and whizz to break it up. Leave it in the food processor. Bring the milk to the boil, then add to the pudding, whizzing until mixed in. Add the egg yolks one by one, whizzing them in, too. Beat the whites with a pinch of salt until stiff, and fold this airy mass into the pudding mixture. Spoon the lot into the soufflé dishes. Bake for 40 minutes - keep an eye on them as you don't want to burn the top too much. Dust with icing sugar and serve with vanilla ice cream (bought in, silly).

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.